The NDP’s challenge to the Tories
Having underestimated the NDP position in the lead-up to the convention — no, they actually had done what they needed in order to stay in position to consolidate their gains — the media is now in danger of overestimating the quality of their challenge just now.
Yes, right now the NDP is statistically tied with the Conservatives, or even marginally ahead.
But Prime Minister Stephen Harper is firmly in control. He has been in government for six years, and his ministry has at least three-and-a-half years left to run with a comfortably large parliamentary majority.
That being said, there is some interesting commentary.
Rex Murphy is impressed by the new Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition:
Mulcair, in fact, has very much of Mr. Harper’s own style. He is not unequipped with self-esteem, has a bristling, prickly way with opponents, and would rather hit hard than not hit at all. If the Tories launch ad drones against Mulcair, they will find themselves equally under fire.
There is another element to Thomas Mulcair we have not really seen in a while. He actually wants, deep in his heart, to replace Stephen Harper. Really. In the days of Dion and Ignatieff, the wish to beat Harper was there, but it was somehow a timid thing, half-way between a whim and “it’d be nice.”
There’s no equivocation now. There’s nothing lukewarm about Mulcair’s determination. He knows the job he wants. The Harperites have a dedicated and intense opposition on their case and a leader who really understands that the only purpose of an opposition is to turn it into a government — an insight not really on display in the last five years or so.
Paul Wells notes that Quebec and British Columbia — one an NDP stronghold, the other a Tory redoubt that is subject to periodic NDP winning streaks — are where Harper is likely to find some interesting times by next year:
With Danielle Smith stomping across Alberta in the boots of history (OK, lousy metaphor), Pauline Marois richly earning the most awkward political nickname in memory (she’s la dame du béton, the woman of concrete, but whatever: she seems on track to win 85 of 125 seats at the next election) and the British Columbia centre-right hopelessly divided, it’s time to ponder the mess Canada might be in in a year. …
But one of the things Smith and Harper agree on is that Enbridge good, oil sands good, Northern Gateway good. BC premier-in-waiting Adrian Dix is not so sure about any of that, and seems likely to get elected on a platform of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipelines to Kitimat. The Harper government is doing everything to get oil sands products to port at Kitimat, a question Joe Oliver called “an urgent matter of Canada’s national interest.” In the first place, I expect Harper to deploy rapidly-escalating feats of ingenuity to stop Dix in advance of a B.C. election, but if it doesn’t work, it’s reasonable to expect epic confrontations between Harper and a premier-elect Dix.
As for Quebec: oy. Harper got elected in 2006 on a Quebec platform of nearly unconditional support for “the most federalist Quebec premier of my lifetime,” Jean Charest. He has never had to fight a PQ premier. I have a crazy hunch he would not be delicate about it, and indeed I rather hope he wouldn’t. But that antagonistic dynamic would be amplified by the presence of 58 Quebec NDP MPs forming the power base for the federal opposition leader. And one aspect of that antagonism would be the same energy-environment bundle of issues that would form the basis for Harper’s trouble in B.C.
I offer no prediction about how these fights would turn out. Harper thrives on conflict, and more is coming, so he may even find a way to profit. But it all looks like a fascinating couple of years.
This all is quite interesting.
2013 will be entertaining, especially if we see Premiers Dix and Marois take office.
But let’s be clear, there’s a path to NDP victory.
How would an NDP national government look?
Look at it province-by-province, using the old seat breakdowns of the current parliament. How can an NDP victory look?
Win British Columbia: Add ten orange seats, for a total of 22.
Narrow the margins in the Prairies: win three seats in Alberta, win five seats in Saskatchewan, win six seats in Manitoba. That’s a gain of eleven seats, for a total of 14 NDP Prairie MPs.
Consolidate Quebec: pick off another five seats from the other parties, for a total of 63 NDP MPs from Quebec.
Place in Atlantic Canada: win five seats in NB (up four), win six seats in NS (up three), win two seats in PEI (up two), and win four seats in Newfoundland (up two). That’s a pick-up of eleven, and a total of seventeen Atlantic Canadian Dippers.
That gives us 116 NDP MPs of 202 non-Ontario MPs. For a razor-thin majority in the old parliament seat layout, win 39 Ontario ridings, gaining seventeen from the current caucus of 22. That gives the NDP 155 seats of 308. Alternatively, if you just hold the current caucus, that leaves the NDP at 138 seats, needing Liberal support to topple Harper.
This is only an intellectual exercise — the additional 30 seats in the next Parliament will come out West and in Ontario, in locations (the suburbs and exurbs) likely to vote Tory blue.
But the point is, it’s not impossible. In fact, there’s a quite plausible path. I do not expect it to be followed in 2015 — I expect at least one more Harper victory. But if and when the NDP forms a federal government, majority or otherwise, this is how it can be done.